Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says Gadsden Flag might constitute harassment
By Kelly Thomas | August 6, 2016, 8:01 EDT
WASHINGTON, D.C. – If Washington bureaucrats have their way, it may soon be unlawful to display images of the famous Revolutionary War saying, “Don’t Tread on Me.”
According to a recent report in the Washington Post, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently determined that in some cases, wearing or displaying the famous “Gadsden’s flag” can be considered “racial harassment.” Known as “Gadsden’s flag” after the colonel who designed it and gave it to the Continental Navy to use in 1775, the famed insignia shows a coiled rattlesnake preparing to strike, with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” beneath it.
The case stems from a complaint filed in 2014 by an African-American man who claimed that he felt harassed by a co-worker’s hat that bore the insignia.
Calling the flag offensive because its designer, Colonel Gadsden, who was from South Carolina, was a “slave trader and owner of slaves,” the complainant had previously brought the issue to company management, who stated they would ask the worker to remove the cap. But, the complaint claims, the coworker continued to wear the cap.
In June 2016, the EEOC held that, although the flag originated in a “non-racial context,” the matter demanded further investigation in order to determine the context of the coworker’s display.
Nothing in the man’s complaint implies that the coworker at any point engaged in racist behavior or speech towards the complainant. The accusations rest solely upon the complainant’s inference of racial aggression inherent in the insignia. He refers to the flag as a “historical indicator of white resentment against blacks stemming largely from the Tea Party” and quotes the Vice President of the New Haven, Connecticut’s chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, who in 2014 successfully appealed to have the flag removed from display at New Haven fire department, claiming that it was no different than the Confederate Flag.
Ironically, the Commission also cites the Tea Party in its decision, referencing the group’s use of the flag to “express various non-racial sentiments.”
Although the Commission has thus far refrained from passing judgment on the merits of the case, their decision to demand further investigation into whether displaying the Gadsen flag legally constitutes harassment carries significant implications for employers in both the public and private sector.